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Looking Ahead to the League Cup Second Leg

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Saturday's game against West Ham is now in the books and, depending on where you stand, you may still be disappointed or relieved with the point gained. No matter how Arsenal get on later today City will still only be three points behind the team in first position. As I have said before, considering this being a bad run, the fact we are still within touching distance of first place still gives me hope.

Now attention will turn to the League Cup second leg at the Etihad against Everton. The Jesus Navas goal, although not securing a draw, did potentially give City the vital away goal, if needed, after extra time. Back at the home, City certainly need to step up and put on a display worthy of the talent on the pitch, something we have lacked at times this season.

In preparation I am going to look at City's history in second leg games of this competition starting with their first, unsuccessful attempt, in 1964, quite an early foray far in a new competition which had only started in 1960. That game, at Maine Road, was against Stoke City, also still in this years competition. Although City recorded the 1-0 win (a result which would see them through after extra time this season), they had lost the first leg, three weeks earlier 2-0.

Managed by George Poyser in his only full season in that capacity for City after being promoted from being Les McDowall's Assistant, the run was nice, but not the main aim of the season. In the second tier of English football it was his task to turn around the club and restore them to the top flight, something he was unable and ill-equipped to do. After Poyser the board decided to go in a different direction and hired Joe Mercer. Stoke would eventually lose 4-3 in a two legged final against Leicester.

The next time City played in the League Cup semi final was with Joe Mercer as boss and a two legged affair with neighbors United. A first leg 2-1 win at Maine Road with goals by Colin Bell and Francis Lee gave them a great chance in the return leg. Two weeks later, at Old Trafford, the 2-2 draw was enough to see City progress to face West Brom and lift the trophy for the first time, while finishing tenth in the League.

Another four years passed, and another Manager was in charge, the next time City would progress this far. Joe Mercer had gone, Allison had taken charge and left when Ron Saunders took City to Plymouth and a draw thanks to a Tommy Booth goal. Back at home, a week later, City took care of business with goals from Bell and Lee securing a 2-0 win and progressing to the Final.

Against Wolves, a John Richards goal five minutes from time took the win after Colin Bell had equalized for the Blues after the hour. In the League it wasn't good news either with the side only four points above the relegation zone.

City wouldn't have to wait too long for more success in the competition though when they beat Newcastle in 1976. That Dennis Tueart overhead kick has been shown in TV replays and highlight reels ever since but that didn't look on after the first leg of the Semi Final. Away to Middlesbrough the initial 1-0 defeat was overturned in style just over a week later. Goals from Peter Barnes, Gerard Keegan, Alan Oakes and Joe Royle booked Citys third trip to the final in seven years and that trophy lift. Incidently, City played Boro in the League right before the first leg, so just like this time around they played the same side three times in a short space of time and, also finishing in the top half of the league.

One of the most disappointing cup runs would come in the 1980-81 season when City bowed out over two legs to Liverpool. Again, it was another Manager in charge at Maine Road as City lost at Anfield 1-0 before only managing a draw three weeks later at Maine Road. John Bond took over on the 17th of October, 1980 and in the next seven months saw City fail at the semi final stage before losing the FA Cup final replay later. Again, in the League, City would finish out of the top 10.

That would be the last time City would appear this far in the competition until Roberto Mancini was in charge. It started all so well for City, replicating the exact score line from the 1970 Semi Final against the same opponents. A 2-1 first leg victory, at home against United, saw City fans anticipate something special. However, unlike forty years earlier, although there were again four goals in the second leg, three went to United who progressed to the Final with a late Rooney goal in extra time. The whistle would be blown by referee Howard Webb less than two minutes later.

Roberto Mancini had another bite at the cherry three seasons later when his side faced Liverpool, in an almost exact same way as they had in the 1981 competition. A 1-0 loss at home was followed by a draw at Anfield two weeks later. This time it was a 2-2 draw with ex City player Craig Bellamy scoring the heart breaker for City fans with fifteen minutes to play. The game wasn't without controversy again though with City defender Micah Richards deemed to have handled the ball in the area after Nigel DeJong had leveled the tie. Much was made of the incident after the game with the referee, Phil Dowd apologizing to Richards. Ex referee Graham Poll also backed Richards by stating that Liverpool had been incredibly lucky to be given the penalty after the close range shot ricocheted off the defenders leg to his arm. City would have to content themselves with their first League title instead

In 2014, just a little under 40 years from that Dennis Tueart overhead kick City would lift the trophy again. In Manuel Pellegrini's first season in charge a 3-1 win against Sunderland in the competition kick started the final run in to another title, and it is hoped the Charming Man can do similar again.

The Semi Final that time around wasn't as nervy with City Hammering the Hammers 6-0 in the first leg. A hat trick from Alvero Negredo, two from Edin Dzeko and one from Yaya made the trip to the Boleyn Ground that much easier. Another two from Negredo and one from Sergio Aguero made Pellegrini the first foreign coach to take City to the Final of the competition and a victory on Wednesday would see him become the first manager to take City to two League Cup Finals.

For this game there is more on the line than a trip to Wembley. As with Pellegrini's first season in charge it is a chance to reinvigorate the season and run in to possibly another title. It all needs to be left on the pitch and caution thrown to the wind with a dominating performance early on to help calm a nervous looking defense.